What are the differences in boards used for conditions in WA ?? Compared to the Gold Coast compared to Bells ?? Good questions.
I think the answer is not a lot but I think the Pros are looking for little features in their equipment to give them the edge at Margaret’s or Bells.
Like rounded pins, maybe in some cases slightly thicker or slightly chunkier rail with slightly thinner tails, a little less concave or maybe a little vee thrown in somewhere on the bottom.
Obviously at Bells and particularly Margaret’s you have a more open ocean raw experience with at times bigger faces and at times considerable bump, water movement and more speed in the swell. In these conditions you are looking at dependability off the bottom but still a measure of flare out of the top of the wave. There are a couple of ways to get dependability off the bottom, you need good hold so when you lay the board on the rail in the bottom turn it will hold and maintain speed through the length of the turn.
In waves with more face it becomes essential to hold the rail in the bottom turn and have patience and wait for the turn to be complete to then time the transition to the upper region of the wave.
Generally the Pros will go to a round tail board usually an inch longer than their regular all-round short board, which is usually a rounded square tail. The round tail has less speed than a rounded square or squash tail so it will go slightly slower and contribute as a control element, helping to hold in on bigger waves or waves with more speed. The one thing you need to be careful with as a contest surfer is not over do the hold and control and lose dynamic performance out of the top.
In the WCT man on man heat situation paddling power is not really a concern and at the end of the day you only need to surf 2 good waves to get your score.
So going to a step up board 1 inch longer means you gain a measure of hold and control off the bottom throughout the length of the turn cutting thru the chop if there is any on the face, but your board is still short so it will be super loose out of the top allowing for all the futuristic moves we’ve come to expect from the elite tour.
Obviously as the wave size increases board size will need to keep going up but it’s surprising how short the boards are that the Pro’s are surfing.
Kelly is surfing 5’9 Round tails as a regular short board and then goes to 5’11 as a step up.
Mick is surfing 5’11 and 6’0 as step up boards.
The other element employed to adapt small boards to solid waves is the old measure of increasing the stringer width a touch in the blank and also glassing the boards up a fraction.
Normal team ratio glassing is 1 x 4 deck 1 x 4 ounce bottom, sometimes with a ¼ deck patch for the back foot, or some sort of carbon strip on the rail at the tail for compression strength.
A glassed up bigger wave board may have 2 x 4 deck and 1 x 4 bottom.
The added weight will slow the board down a touch and also keep forward momentum so when you initiate a turn the board will pick up speed slower but then tend to maintain it longer and continue the speed at the end of the arc cutting through chop or holding a line when there is baubles or unusual movement in the water on the wave face. Added weight will also tend to be more stable and less prone to be affected by whitewater.
I think generally the small size of boards surfed on the tour in bigger waves is misleading for the average surfer. As average surfers we have to deal with crowds and do not have the luxury of jet ski assist, multiple board quivers at our disposal, or for that matter supreme fitness. So we need to be a little more conservative with our board choice.